The Teenage Prototype

By: Charlotte Forrester

This resonates within our own lives to an extent. I’m 16 years old myself, and all the way through my education, I have seen peers go through their own identity crises. Whether it be through experimental looks that are later remembered with regret or short-lived obsessions with a new band or show. These things — for a short while at least — become a part of our identity and are what we are temporarily linked with. Then we grow out of it or simply just become bored, because teenagers are naturally and constantly reinventing themselves, which shows us that these high school clique movies aren’t completely true.

We can’t just simply associate ourselves with one label and be complacent. We are continually developing and changing and to put who we are into tight boxes is a disservice to ourselves. Teenagers cannot be neatly categorized into “Jocks” or “Geeks” or “Cheerleaders.” It doesn’t work like that. Sometimes we do try to conform to a certain “image” or “role” as messages from the media pressure us to strive for perfection but, despite negative stereotypes of teenagers that we see portrayed in TV and film, we are complex humans with different interests and shifting passions. We overflow with contradictions to the point where we are simply walking paradoxes.

Sometimes it seems as though there’s an expiration date on the time that we can spend on self-discovery and that there will come a day when we should be able to stand up and say, “This is who I am. I have found myself,” when in reality it’s not about self-discovery, but about self-creation. Every day we will see more, hear more, learn more and feel more, and everything we encounter will play some part in creating the next version of ourselves.

The remarkable Caitlin Moran explores this adolescent identity crisis in her novel “How To Build a Girl” and in a single paragraph she manages to make some sense of it all:

“There is no academy where you can learn to be yourself; there is no line manager, slowly urging you towards the correct answer. You are midwife to yourself, and will give birth to yourself, over and over, in dark rooms alone.”

I completely agree. We will go on constructing ourselves long after our teenage years and we will try to improve ourselves each time. Just as I am as grateful that I’m not the same me as I was two years ago, I hate the idea of being the same me in two years’ time when I turn 18. Even though I encourage high self-esteem, I still don’t want to be so satisfied with myself that I stop questioning my behaviour, lifestyle and essentially who I am.

It’s unbearable to even think about how I will never be able to read all the books, watch all the movies, listen to all the songs or visit all the places in this lifetime. I am so incredibly confined already, which is why it seems so absurd to feel that I have to bind myself further by not letting myself change as a person. It almost seems like an injustice to who I could be and none of us deserve to feel like we have to restrict ourselves.

We will persistently shed our former selves and hopefully come into the world as improved people with developed perspectives and tougher skin. I am a teenage mess with fickle views and erratic emotions but I feel like that is a brilliant honour. At the moment I am simply at the prototype stage of my life and I don’t plan on reaching a final product any time soon. When I’m older I will strive to continue to be a spectrum of fascinations and a kaleidoscope of self-expression. I am determined to not limit this extraordinary phenomenon of creation and progression within myself to only my teenage years.

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